Tracey Chiappini-Young speaks fast; she’s clearly a woman on a mission. The Green Cross MD sits in a bright corner office, a good deal of which is devoted to a table weighed down by pair after pair of sample shoes of various shapes and colours. As she speaks, her brown eyes dart from me to the shoes as she explains new processes, materials and the need to disrupt and innovate.
The company scored something of a coup a few weeks earlier when models for fashion labels De Mil and Ephymol hit the catwalks wearing Green Cross shoes for the local designers’ Autumn Winter 2018 collections at South African Fashion Week in Johannesburg.
The new Green Cross W2018 campaign features a womenswear collection that includes a range bang-on point with the growing boyfriend shoe and sports luxe trends, complementing their stylish men’s brogues and tasselled loafers.
But don’t mourn the loss of your favourite comfort shoe. There are no plans to change the DNA of the brand, which is about offering customers a classically styled shoe with uncompromised comfort. Accompanied by her new creative and merchandise teams, Chiappini-Young says the intention is to increase the brand’s style quotient and improve comfort through innovation.
While Chiappini-Young insists that Green Cross will not become a fashion brand, she acknowledges that there has been a shift in who the customer is. “Our customer has become more sophisticated, more stylish and more discerning. She or he is looking for shoes with substance; shoes which are contemporary and special; shoes which are differentiated from other offerings in the market place. Green Cross has always been synonymous with superior quality, comfort shoes. We are now upping the style ante through our European supply chain.
Founded in 1975 by German husband and wife team Karl and Hildegard Zeppel, Green Cross started out as a pure “wellness” comfort shoe brand. The company employs over 700 people and has 42 retail stores nationally. More than half of its shoes are produced in its factory in Epping in Cape Town; the rest are manufactured in collaboration with superior facilities in Portugal, Italy and China. Despite the sophisticated machinery needed to manufacture shoes, each pair still requires 50 pairs of human hands.
Chiappini-Young is very adamant that although she is not changing the brand, Green Cross will offer the best looking comfort shoes. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, she’s working hard with her team to build a successful, sustainable, and, ultimately, comfortable business